Tributes to Charles Abeysekera
[TamilNet, Friday, 05 June 1998, 23:59 GMT]
An array of notable individuals, including political leaders, intellectuals, aesthetes and human rights activists hailed the work of the late Charles Abeysekera (1926-1998), at a commemoration ceremony held in Colombo yesterday evening.
Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said that Abeysekera had died at a time when someone like him was "urgently and desperately needed," while Prof. S. Sivathamby, of the Eastern University, described him as 'a friend of the Tamils'.
Prof. Peiris said that Abeysekera's vision was not a disjointed jumble of thoughts, but a coherent set of ideas woven around the theme of nation building.
He said that Abeysekera's work touched issues such as language, education, the value system, constitutional matters and human rights.
He had left an enduring mark on all these areas of human concern said the Minister.
Abeysekera was deeply committed to strengthening institutions in civil society and wanted to use these organisations to bring pressure to bear on the Peoples Alliance (PA) and the United National Party (UNP) to formulate a set of political principles which would find expression in a constitution, said Prof. Peiris.
Richard Reoch, Chairman of the London based NGO Forum on Sri Lanka said, "I am here, fundamentally, because I loved this man .I would have done anything to have his vision, his intellect, his compassion, his gentleness and his nobility."
He assured people of Sri Lanka that there were thousands across the globe who were aware of the suffering that Sri Lankans were undergoing. "Our prayers are with you," he said.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, MP (UNP) said that Abeysekera combined some of the finest qualities a human being could possess - a father figure, an open and receptive mind and as an activist.
He said that Abeysekera never felt uneasy to work with people whom he had criticised and used gentle persuasion to win over those who opposed his ideas.
"He did not challenge the leadership of my party (UNP) as lacking in vision," said Mr. Samarasinghe.
"At every point he intervened intellectually and emotionally with forces of tolerance and accommodation," said Neelan Tiruchelvam (Tamil United Liberation Front), who outlined Abeysekera's activism in human rights and conflict resolution.
A. J. Gunawardene, former Professor of English, University of Keleniya, said that Abeysekera's activism stemmed from a deep commitment to liberate the arts from political domination.
He was a person of great sensitivity who could have been a dilettante of the arts or hedonist, but became an activist so that he could share his unique gifts with others, said the Professor.